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taxguy Senior Member

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  • Overview of our visit to Drexel

    Overview of visit at Drexel

    My family took a tour and participated in an open house at Drexel University. I thought I would share my thoughts about what I saw.

    1. Academics: We were checking out their graphics design and new media program. The person who headed up the department gave a lecture on what was going on. I was quite impressed. I also met parents who participated in computer science and engineering, and they too liked what they heard.Drexel also does a lot of interdisciplary projects, which give students great experience. Also, they have a top rated co-op program.However, most co-op jobs are in Pennsylvania. Drexel, is also very computer saavy and has lots of computer labs. However, I didn't feel that they had as many computers per student or as wired as say Carnegie Mellon, which I also toured and will discuss in a separate thread. Although Drexel is primarily known for engineering, it had a large number of interest students in its design and new media program. Average SATs for Drexel is around 1200 and they have a 13/1 student teacher ratio, according to the lecturer. I think for engineering and Science, the average SAT is higher. From what I have seen, I would give the school a B to B+ in academics.

    2. Parking: Parking is somewhat tough there. It is a city school with very little parking. There is one parking garage , and that is it. Drexel, however, is accessible through the Phily subway system and Amtrak. Overall, C- in parking.

    3. Food: They probably had the worst college food that I have ever tasted. I couldn't believe that they would serve such slop to visitors. Honestly, the food was mostly fried and greasy. The only good part of it was that they had decent ( but not great) pizza. There wasn't a lot of choices for lunch either. For example, there was no chicken or hamburgers,but lots of pasta. They had a salad bar, but the lettice looked wilted. They also didn't have a host of topings. Overall F in food. No kidding.

    4. Dorms: The building were nice on the outside,but inside were rather small and dreary. I didn't get to see all the dorms ,but what I saw was underwhelming. Many were old and refurbished years ago. I would give them a C for dorms. Also, The actual "campus" of Drexel appeared safe. However, if you walk couple of blocks from the freshmen dorms, I didn't get the same feeling of safety.

    5. Quality of Life: The student center was fairly nice with a large pool. However, the pool table needed some work and they really didn't have a large number of tread mills for all the students (maybe 12). Gym facilties were about average. Overall, I would give it a C-C+

    6. Student's feelings about the school: We approaced several students. Most felt that the academics were good, but as we observed, they didn't have much to say about anything else. We got the feeling that most students weren't very happy with the Drexel envirnment.

    7. Tuition and fees were about $21,300, which is very moderatly priced. Room and board would be around $9,000 more.

    Bottom line: I think Drexel is a good school, especially for its engineering, science and art and design programs. If you combine the good academic offerings plus moderate pricing plus very good co- op program, they offer a good academic/vocational experiece,but little else. Although I do feel that having a decent engineering and strong media design department adds to the diversity of kids at the school, I felt it was overall a slightly inferior version of RIT and a lot less in quality to Carnegie Mellon. Definitely, you should check it out. You may not agree with our assessment.
  • Overview of our visit to RIT (Rochester Institute of Tech)

    We just had a tour of RIt (Rochester Institute of Technology). Our tour guide majored in New Media Design, which is what my daughter is interested in.

    After reading a number of negative comments in Studentreviews.com and finding out that they have some of the lowest 6 year retention rates in the nation ( under 60% graduate within 6 years), I wanted to check out the school for myself.

    1. Academics: As one professor noted, RIT is aiming to be the next Carnegie Mellon within 10-20 years. I can definitely see the similarities. RIT has seven schools and an institute for the deaf. They are:

    College Abbreviations
    CAST - Applied Science & Technology
    CCIS - Computing & Information Sciences
    CIAS - Imaging Arts & Sciences ( design, photography, printing, and immaging science studies)
    CLA - Liberal Arts
    COB - Business
    COE - Engineering
    COS - Science
    NTID - Nat'l Technical Institute for the Deaf

    There are a lot of deaf students on campus taking courses.

    Average SATs are 1210, math 620 and verbal 590. I suspected that if you major in science and engineering, you would need a higher math score. I met a few engineering and computer science kids whose average math SAT were around 650-670. These interviews may not be statistically valid.

    Overall, RIT academics is very underrated and underappreciated. They have some top professors. US News and World Reports gave them a 4.1 out of 5.0 in peer reviews. CMU has a 4.3 by the way. Student teacher ratio is around 13:1. This should be contrasted to that of CMU with a 9:1 student teacher ratio.

    The school works their kids like dogs. In this way, it is similar to CMU. Make no mistake, these kids are expected to work hard and at a high level. However, that is part of the problem. The students are not quite up to the level ( at least on paper) as their CMU counterparts.

    Most students that I met came to RIT because they didn't get admitted to MIT, CMU, Cornell or were give great scholarship money or they lived in the area and didn't want to attend school far away. This is not to say that the student body isn't smart. However, they are a few notches under what is found in the top schools at least in engineering and science.

    I should note that design students are very top notch. There is a large number of applications for a relatively small number of spots, making their school of immaging sciences very tough to get into.

    RIT also has some interesting majors that you won't find elsewhere such as printing, photographic sciences,New Media Design, New Media Printing etc. They are very tied in to Bausch and Lomb; thus, anything to do with photography is especially strong.

    RIT also has a very strong co-op program where you get real world experience and get well paid for this work. Supposedly one-third of the students who particpate in co-op get full-time job offers. This is one factor that clearly distinguishes RIT from other institutions.

    AP polciy is also very liberal. Generally, if you get a "3" or more on an exam, you get credit. I don't know if they limit the total number of courses that they will accept AP credit. This should be compared to schools like CMU that requires 4's and 5's for many exams.

    There are few doctoral programs offered. Thus, most professors are NOT TAs. 80% of the faculty have terminal degrees ( compared to that of CMU that has 96% with terminal degrees).

    Although the work is very hard, I didn't get the impression that it was of the same high level of CMU. I could be wrong on this though. I also didn't see the same amount of interdiciplinary type of work that goes on at CMU.

    Like CMU, RIT is very wired. There are a huge number of computer labs and wireless spots available on campus.
    I should note that one big distinction is that RIT does NOT have a drama department.

    Overall adademically I would give them a B+

    2. Campus: The campus is huge. It is much bigger than that of CMU ( and they have double the students too). I thought it was pretty. However, almost every building consists of red brick, and I do mean almost every building. They don't believe in diversity of architecture. However, there are nice big green grassy area for the kids to play sports and sit and study ( when the weather allows, which is rare).
    They also have tunnels that go from the dorms to various buildings, which was very interestingly planned. Moreover, they have a new building that houses a great indoor running track, new workout facilities and swimming pool.

    I should note that the maintenance on the facilites was immaculate. There was no garbage, graffiti, or dirt found anywhere. They must have little gremlins cleaning up at night. The bathrooms were also nice and clean; however, I missed the little scented devices that I found at CMU.

    There has been a number of complaints that there just isn't anything to do in RIT other than study. RIT is taking this complaint seriously and is working on building a town for students which will consist of shopping, restaurants, fun area etc. This should be very exciting when finished, if it is ever finished.

    Overall, I would currewntly give the Campus a C+ to a B-

    3.Parking: Although parking is limited as with other schools, it was a lot better than what I found at Drexel and CMU. Since most kids live on Campus, they don't need cars. I would give RIT a "C" to "C+" in parking.

    4.Dorms: Sadly, I didn't get to see any dorms due to security. However, based on speaking with students, they are nice, large and get cleaned daily. RIT does have appartments and lots of room for more housing. A number of dorms and new and modern. From what I can ascertain, I would give them a solid "B" in dorms

    5. Food: WE at on campus, and all of us liked the food. It was varied and reasonably well cooked. They had a nice salid bar too. Overall, I would give them a "B" in food.

    6. Problems: With all these good things, why do they have such dissatisfaction among students and comments. As far as I can tell there are three main problems:

    First,is the weather. AS one student noted, "Immagine how cold you think Rochester is and subtract 25 degrees." It is very cold and blustery most of the year. Although, the school is very good at snow removal, this doesn't detract from the blistery cold students experience going to class.

    Second, There is no school spirit. At least in Syracuse, there are great sports teams and lots of things to do. Here, sports are limited due to the weather and, since it is so cold, no one wants to leave their dorms.

    Third: This may be the clincher: RIT is a very hard school. Students are expected to work hard. Moreover, there is very little outlet for release. For example, the male-female ration is 70%-30%,with most females in the school of design. This means that in most science or engineering classes, it is more like 10:1 (male to female). Thus, social life is not that great. Moreover, RIT is VERY strict as to drinking. They have a complete no drinking policy on campus at any of its facilities, dorms or apartments. Personally, I like this policy,but many students don't.

    7. Tuition: Here there is a big surprise. RIT tuition is just under $22,000 per year. Moreover, room and board are also relatively cheap at about $8,000. From a pricing perspective, this school is a deal for a private school.

    Overall impressions: This is one of those schools that are hard to define. They have good science and good art and design. Whether it is up to the level of a CMU is hard to evaluate. However, there is clearly a lack of things to do other than work and have LAN parties. RIT is attempting to add more facilities for students' enjoyment. Thus, if you want very good academics, great co-op experience at a very good price, this may well be the school for your kids. I really do believe that they will get better and might well acheive the goal espoused by a professor: equal in quality that of CMU! Frankly, I didn't feel that they were that far away at least academically.

    Obviously, my impressions may differ from yours. You should check out the school.
  • Re: CS at RIT

    Interestingly, I was looking at both RIT and CMU for my daughter too. RIT is basically a similar but lessor version, and less expensive version of Carnegie Mellon, without the drama school. It does provide a very good technical education in engineering, computers as well as having a very strong visual arts department. Thus, in that way there is both artsy types and computer types, just like CMU.

    Right now, Carnegie Mellon has the better reputation in computers. No question. However, RIT is definitely rising. Also, RIT has one of the strongest co-op programs in the country that are fully paid too! This leads to a lot of job opportunities and actual real world experience.

    The benefits of RIT are: GREAT co-op experience with good job offer possibilities, about $10,000 cheaper per year than CMU. (CMU tuition is over $31K while RIT is $21,400)

    Lots of majors to choose from, and it is easier to switch majors and departments than that of CMU. This is a major difference between RIT and CMU. Surprisingly, many people do switch majors. It is more difficult to do this at CMU than that of RIT since you have to be accepted to each school at CMU.

    Most courses are taught by professors and class size is small by tech school standards. Not a lot of snootiness at RIT, and it has better food ( if student comments are correct)

    Also, RIT has about 150 points lower, on the average, combined SATs.(CMU median is about 1360, RIT is about 1210 as a median) Thus, if you are a very good student, you stand a better shot of getting into the honors program and getting a merit based award at RIT than that of CMU, which accentuates the price differential. Also, with the co-op program, RIT is even cheaper than noted. You don't pay tuition while working in the co-op, and the pay can be quite good per hour. You can earn almost a whole quarter tuition from one quarter of co-op.

    Finally, for the most part, RIT offers mostly undergraduate degrees with a few masters programs. Its emphasis is on undergraduate education.

    Benefits of CMU: Better overall reputation, especially good in computer science and Robotics. SATs are about 150 points more as a combined average for the median student. CMU has a semester system vs. RIT quarter system ( however, quarter system does have its pros and cons, but it is especially good for internships).
    Both schools are about equally computer wired. RIT,however is about twice the size in terms of number of students than that of CMU.
    At CMU, you also get a bit more diversity such as having more international students. Also, CMU was rated by U.S. News ( I think it was they) as a top school for getting jobs. Thus, these kids don't seem to suffer a lack of job offers. However, it is my opinion that having a co-op program does give an edge over schools that don't have a strong co-op or internship program.

    RIT emphasizes job skills and job connections. I get the feeling that CMU for science is more research oriented.Not that RIt doesn't have a lot of research going on,but I feel that there is more of an emphasis on research at CMU.Dorms are supposedly better at RIT.

    Also CMU is about 60% male and 40% femaile. RIt is about 66% male and 33% female. RIT is a totally dry campus in dorms. No drinking is allowed in RIT dorms,but you can drink at campus bars.

    As you can see, I spent a lot of time examining both schools.This should give you a good overview. Check out each school and see how much money each gives you.
  • I would rarely, if ever, recommend more than 30K of student loan debt for undergrad

    I just read an article about a girl who incurred $100,000 of student loan debt attending NYU. Thus, as a CPA/tax lawyer and writer of financial books, I thought I would address the issue of incurring large amount of undergraduate student loan debt for a "dream school."

    Student loans are among the worst loans that you can get. First, they charge a hefty interest rate of almost 8%,which is much higher than most mortgage loans today.

    Secondly, they generally can NOT be discharged from bankruptcy. They only exception that I am aware of is when a student is totally disabled and can't work forever.

    Thirdly, if you owe student loans, the government can use your tax refund to pay off the loan

    Fourthly:many student loans require parental guarantees. You would be surprised how many times students can't pay off their student loan debts thus forcing the banks to go after the parent's assets. It is a real disaster. Even worse, if there is a default on some student loan debts, such as Plus Loans, the federal government can garnish your Social Security to pay off these defaulting debts.

    .Finally, If all this isn't bad enough, you can only deduct up to $2,500 a year in student loan interest and only if you make under a certain amount of money. This translates to about $31,000 worth of loans that would allow the deduction for interest.

    Bottom line: I do NOT ever recommend incurring more than about $31,000 of student loans for undergraduate education,which is what would produce the maximum deduction for student loan interest. If you need to incur more, and I hope it isn't much more than $31,000, I would either recommend going to a less expensive school or consider doing what you can to reduce them such as work study, seeking scholarships etc. I know many people who didn't mind incurring student debts while in college ,but I know NO ONE who liked paying them back!

    Trust me on this, it is NOT worth sending a kid to their "dream school" for undergraduate education if they have to incur much more than $31,000 in student loan debt.

    NOTE: This discussion only relates to student loan debt incurred for undergraduate education. Graduate and professional school might be a different matter. Some of the issues still apply however.
  • What Extra Curricular Activities (ECs) Top Schools REALLY want

    We had a meeting with some other parents from our high school. We discussed where are kids got into schools and what their stats and ECs were. There were some interesting observations that I wanted to share with parents of future college applicants.

    Yes, the HYPS and top LACS usually wanted great GPAs and Stats. No one that I met got into a top ivy or top lac with under a 3.85 unweighted GPA and around 2100+ SATs. However, there were a number of kids with higher SATs and even GPAs that weren't admitted to top schools yet some with slightly lower SATs and GPAs go into those same schools. Why? Here are my observations.

    There seems to be some myth that if your kids have large number of ECs such as band, student newspaper, orchestra, school ambassador etc, you will have a better chance of admission. This doesn't seem correct.

    What schools seems to want are the right type of ECs. They want to see PASSION for the student's major. Let me illustrate with some examples:

    1. For kids interested in art: they should take pre-college art courses, take tutoring, if possible, work at art related jobs, enter competitions,etc.

    2. Music kids should strive not only to be in their school's band but make statewide honors orchestra and enter competitions.

    3. Science oriented kids should take summer jobs with firms doing research, entering science competitions such as intel competition,

    4. Humanities or English oriented kids should submit opinion editorials for local newspapers,write short stories for publication, enter writing contests etc.

    5. Leadership ECs: starting up a company, starting up a fund raising drive for an orphanage, Cheerleader captain, and other major types of leadership oriented ECs.

    The bottom line is that top schools seem to want ECs related to the field of interest of the student. They seem to want passionate students.

    I should note that there were one other major ECs that top schools seem to like. To me, it doesn't make sense, but it was a persistant thread that seemed to permeate accepted students' ECs: varsity sports and/or cheerleading and pom squad. Colleges seem to really like this. I don't know why, but there is no question in my mind that varsity sports gives these kids an edge even if they are not specifically recruited students for that sport.

    I should note one other observation: schools like to push kids into taking honors and AP courses. This is certainly essential for admission to Ivy schools and top lacs. Thus, if you are applying to one of the top 30-50 most selective schools, you should take top courses. However, for the VAST number of other schools, admission officers seem to use unweighted GPAs for admission. Thus, if your kids are capable of getting A's in top honors and AP courses, they should take them. HOWEVER, if they are getting B's or less in these top courses, they should focus on take regular courses. Thus a 3.7 GPA with regular courses will have a stronger chance of admission for most schools ( other than the top 30 schools or so) than a 3.4 student with all honors and AP courses. This may seem strange and not even make sense, but I have found this to be true.

    I have asked some admission officers why they don't give greater weight to top courses. They usually answer the question with "We can't evaluate how different the top courses are from that of other courses from school to school. Likewise many schools, especially in poorer areas, don't have access to as many top courses. Thus, using unweighted GPA levels the field."

    Obviously, my meetings are not based on statistical samplings. I am sure that you will find admitted kids to top schools without these ECs,but, from what I have seen, these will give your kids a clear edge!